Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My Opinion and the Truth

My stated opinion in the last post likely caused discomfort for some readers, as it may have seemed I had taken a tack of attack. I appreciate that and today would like to qualify my position.

First, with a quote from postmodern redneck's comment to the last post:

"Always keep a distinction in your mind between the actual words of Scripture, and the interpretations you and others put on them. Almost all the fighting is over interpretations; and unlike Scripture, interpretations are not divinely inspired and are not guaranteed to be inerrant."

Second, it's a given churches are "divided" groups just from the regional function of meeting with those in some sort of proximity to one another. Is there something wrong with that? Uh, no.

Aside: I was once in a discussion with a pastor who invited me to attend his church. Since the location of that building and hence the meeting to which he invited me was over twenty miles from my house, I declined over the practicality of his suggestion. He countered with one family in his flock drove a hundred miles round-trip to attend and there was a veiled reference to no price is too great for commitment to the Truth. That begs the question of the line between commitment and extremism, but I can't allow myself to become side-tracked!

Which brings up, perhaps, the defining question of why we have denominations (and non-denominational groups who have the flavor of denominations), and what is wrong with people meeting with others of like mind?

Whose truth?

I do not suggest, as a Campbellite of yore might, that I know how to foster the restored church of the New Testament. That is an example of the kind of red herring many of the rationales are which form the basis of particular-group theologies. That is, in attempting to create a pure society of Christians or a sanctified culture which honors the holiness of God, groups of Christians will sometimes put an over emphasis on some interpretation of Scripture and thus fail God's fullest will.

That I even write the words "God's fullest will" is an example of how things might go wrong. Me stating that God's fullest will is anything in particular reduces God to fitting in a box I have created in my rationale intended to qualify meanings I see in the Bible.

There is much tension in attempting to articulate Truth!

Maybe apostasy is the result of shrinking from that tension in denial of what is needed. If that be true, then this discussion is necessary. Ultimately the real problems which are faced by Christian meetings known as church are articulated clearly in the letters to the seven churches of Revelation and other specifics in Scripture. A topic like this serves an evil end if pursued to the point of polarizing brethren around defense and offense of any man-developed truth, the exact emotional dynamic I decry in the last post. Conversely however, is there not a positive outcome in examining what about our groups fosters lukewarmness and other abandonments of our first love, Jesus?

Next up, my take on the solution to the problems of group-think in the church.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Divide Between Goats and Sheep or I'm Not a Fan of Denominationalism

Assumptions allow us to agree together but prevent depth of understanding, thus a depth of connection. We too often accept both our individual limitations and the limits on communion among brethren as a function of our fear and/or pride. (It’s a double whammy but part of the truth of ourselves we must face.) We call these limits the fruit of our flesh, and trust then such is covered by blood. Does this reflect God's will on earth? I think not.

One of the great ironies of church history is that in attempting to determine exactly what the written word says--as a sincere act of service no doubt--groups have developed around particular interpretations of the Bible. We name this with the dignified sounding word doctrine, and begin separating from others over whether or not they believe as we do. In the name of God who says His disciples are known by their love, we divide the people for whom Jesus bled and died intending to redeem them into union with Himself and with one another.

In the pursuit of our doctrines to establish the boundaries of fellowship, we hold huge portions of brethren to be wrong and not worthy of fellowship.

In the pursuit of holiness, we hold to traditions which become empty of meaning in the ritualistic practice and leave people cold and heartless but approved as members of our particular doctrine club.

Further in the effort to avoid disagreement, we have carved out territories of belief systems, whereby we do not have to deal with individual differences--we have been bitten once too often with the deep teeth of conflict and want to avoid the emotional pain. Instead we teach, “Believe thusly and you will be walking in truth,” which reduces the Christian walk with God for too many people into nothing more than being in the truth as evidenced by holding forth the doctrine club’s spoken and unspoken social expectations and assumptions.

Consequently, the hearers of doctrine become a people who are not given instruction and support in walking in the nature of Jesus. (Note I am not describing those who are hearers of the Spirit of God and are mixed in with the subject of this piece. This is the goat and sheep dichotomy.) The word Jesus is often frequently given as the rationale for what is done and taught, but the Living Spirit of Jesus is not active in the hearts of those gathered under the conditions described above. Such conditions are to the detriment of all individually and the development corporately overall of groups who seek only to behave according to a tradition. The end result is a hollow spiritual fa├žade with little spiritual maturity in living out the nature of Jesus.

It has to do with how we see and hear. Ever wonder why God did not cause the Scriptures to be written from a more clearly developed outline, which spells out step by step how to live as a Christian?

Parables hide the truth from all except those who have ears to hear. The Scripture's meaning can be in plain view and plainly read, but is pieced together in revelatory wonder by those who have a heart for God alone and above all else. Thus are few taken out of all who are called to know Him.

(A corollary and needed essay is probably about what is The Doctrine around which Christians need to unite. That is another idea, and I need to get to work.)

Have a blessed weekend and a glorious reunion with others of like heart in joy and thanksgiving during the coming holiday. Don't know when I will post again!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Long Time, No Write

The baby's asleep. The two women in our home are too. Not only is the house quiet, but our town has been unusually quiet for the past two nights, as well. If light made noise, that huge full moon setting in the west would have us all awake and grouchy. Well, I am used to being awake at 5:00 AM, so I wouldn't be grouchy I guess. Funny how in trying to make writing interesting, the facts get switched around a bit.

I realized this morning looking at that moon through the bared branches of late autumn, that it has been nearly a month since I have written anything for the blog. I don't have an essay for here this morning either. I decided to simply give a glimpse into what is happening with my writing thoughts.

I have spent time selecting old posts to consider for use in a small book--devotional maybe-- about walking in the spirit. I have rewritten several into (hopefully) a more useful form for a book format. This began to push me into a corner. I didn't want to invest much time in rewrites that I had not considered well the final putting together thereof. The whole needs a flow, a focus theme that builds insight into the topic. Or so I am thinking. I spent some time searching for an organizing framework for the whole work, which wasn't time at the keyboard but was time in these quiet morning hours thinking over the finish. Knowing where you are going is useful to getting there, though from a creative standpoint, not absolutely necessary. Sometimes the creative process discovers its own path and end--like a walk in the woods!

In the process I found myself doing a Bible study on holiness. Searching with tools, I identified 118 occurrences of words that are translated one of four ways: holiness, righteousness, sanctification, and godliness. That caused me to wonder about other words.

Here are the current results:

God 1170
Jesus = 948
Christ =496
father = 340 (many of these are about an earthly father--didn't read to sort that out)
spirit = 319
Holy Spirit = 92, so possibly 227 times of just the word spirit
love = 184
hope = 68
faith = 228
peace = 88
joy =68
devil/satan =65
evil = 98
sin = 94
I have tried several other "meaty" words with direct spiritual meaning looking for a large number of mentions. Nothing I can think of compares to these. Any ideas?

Obviously I am excluding prepositions, conjunctions and common nouns like day, night, man, or woman. Also, searching in the NASB for hell, abyss, lake of fire and outer darkness was about 30 mentions together.

Suggest some words for me you think may have multiple mentions in the NT and are key to a "spiritual" understanding. It would be helpful for me!